Chinese exorcist masks on display in Paris

13th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 13, 2007 (AFP) - For the first time in Western Europe, old Chinese masks used for exorcist and other animist rituals dating back thousands of years, go on display on Wednesday in one of Paris' leading museums.

PARIS, March 13, 2007 (AFP) - For the first time in Western Europe, old Chinese masks used for exorcist and other animist rituals dating back thousands of years, go on display on Wednesday in one of Paris' leading museums.

"We didn't even know these objects existed 25 years ago," said curator Jacques Lebrat. "Many were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution or before. To my knowledge this is the first show of Nuo masks in Europe."

On loan from museums and some 15 private collections, more than 70 masks representing China's "Nuo" rites -- which means expelling or exorcising demons -- are on show at the exhibition titled Masks from China ("Masques de Chine" in French) at the Jacquemart-Andre museum in the French capital.

Sculpted in wood and dating back to the 17th, 18th and 19th century, or even earlier, the museum says the masks are the legacy of Nuo rites probably dating back to neolithic times that have survived up until now in remote corners of China's countryside.

Nuo rituals to exorcise demons, safeguard against bad luck and bring good health, good harvests and long life. They are believed to have started in the central-eastern plains before spreading south, specially south of the Yangtze River.

Through the centuries, the rite adapted to the beliefs and rule of the times, influenced by Taoism during the Tang and Song eras from the 7th to 13th century and by the Mings from then until the 17th century. First a religion, Nuo became dance and theatre that survives today.

According to Nuo beliefs still held in southwest China and in the Yangtze valley by Han Chinese or ethnic minorities such as the Miao, the founders of humanity were Nuo gong and Nuo mu, a couple still revered as divine beings by the Miao.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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